(2 Corinthians 3:12-18)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
McFaith. You know people like that don’t you? They want Gospel Lite as if it were something consumable and not something to consume their souls. They don’t want to bear the cross as Jesus said, but they’ll gladly wear it as jewelry. They don’t seem to get it. They have no idea what their destination or purpose in life is all about.
They remind me of a story told about the late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. When he was eighty-eight years old he was traveling by train. When the conductor came by, Justice Holmes couldn't find his ticket, and he seemed terribly upset. He searched all of his pockets and fumbled through his wallet without success. The conductor was sympathetic.
He said, “Don't worry, Mr. Holmes, the Pennsylvania Railroad will be happy to trust you. After you reach your destination you'll probably find the ticket and you can just mail it to us.”
But the conductor's kindness failed to put Mr. Holmes at ease. Still very much upset, he said, “My dear man, my problem is not 'Where is my ticket?' The problem is, 'Where am I going?'” (1)
We have to have a destination in life. We have to have a purpose in life. You and I have been given First Class Freedom through Christ. Our lives have been Upraded to First Class because of His grace. And we’ve come to know that there are No 2nd Class Citizens in the Kingdom of God. We are God’s Child. Today we need to look at our destination, because no matter how far you fly, First Class or economy, you eventually have to get off the plane. And then you have to Walk. And for us, it’s a Walk of Faith. Paul gives us an idea of how we are supposed to walk the walk of faith and what it means to be Walking First Class in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 (NRSV)
 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness,
 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.
 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.
 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds;
 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
Paul says we are all, “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” That image of course is the image of Christ. Through our faithfulness, our Christian Disciplines and the work of the Holy Spirit we are becoming more and more like Christ each day. John Wesley would call this Sanctification or Sanctifying Grace or going onto Perfection.
Today, as it relates to Walking First Class I want to talk about three distinct kinds of Christians. There are WEEDERS, WADERS AND WALKERS.
A. Jesus describes the WEEDERS in the parable of the soils. WEEDERS are those folks in whom the faith springs up quickly along with the weeds but is soon choked out by the cares of the world. When they live their lives, they don’t really know what kind of seed has been planted in their hearts or the kind of seed they are planting. They don’t realize that their actions really do speak louder than their words.
Have any of you seen the movie Secondhand Lions starring Robert Duval, Michael Caine and Haley Joe Osmant? It’s a great family film about a couple of old adventurers, purported to have millions stashed away on their farm, who are suddenly put in charge of raising a nephew they never knew they even had. There’s a scene where they try their hand at vegetable gardening. Watch
Secondhand Lions Clip
I love that scene because it points out how what we plant is what we get. If all you plant is corn, you can call it tomatoes or peas or squash but it’s still going to be corn.
B. One night, a mother fixed a special meal for her family: turkey and dressing with mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie for dessert. It was everybody's favorite meal, especially when it came at a time other than Thanksgiving. The aroma filled the house. As the children came in from playing they could hardly wait for dinner to begin. The last child appeared only a few minutes before dinner time and sat through the meal without eating, even though this was his absolute favorite meal.
Why? Because he had filled up on peanut butter and jelly crackers at a friend's house. In settling for something good, he’d lost his appetite for the very best. The same thing applies to our spiritual appetites. WEEDERS don't have much of an appetite for spiritual truth because they have satisfied themselves with lesser things. They’ve planted the wrong seeds and let the WEEDS choke out the best.
A. That brings us to the WADERS. These are the folks whose lives are touched by the faith but they have a tendency to compartmentalize everything. They don’t see how their faith has anything to do with their daily lives. Their faith hasn’t moved from their head to their hearts yet.
They have it in their head that they are Christians but they don’t always live like a Christian. They don’t always WALK a FIRST CLASS life. Watch this.
B. We’ve all been in that situation haven’t we? Busted for not living what we say we believe; realizing that we have just stepped into the Hypocrite Zone and become WADERS.
WADERS don’t always give the best example. They’re the ones who say:
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul, disturb my sleep or control my life; but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine to ease some of the pain of my guilt. I don't want enough of God to change my heart or make me love someone different than me. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want just enough to make church folks think I'm O.K. and enough to hide some for a rainy day. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. (2)
God wants more than WEEDERS and WADERS. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could sort of give our lives to Him. Or become just a little bit of a Christian.
A. God’s desire for us is to become WALKERS. God’s desire is that WALK FIRST CLASS lives, seeking to become more and more like Christ every day.
WALKERS are those are folks who are truly trying to live the faith. These are the folks who are attempting to be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Or as Wesley would have said are “going on to perfection.” WALKERS would never admit that they were there but they would admit that they are striving to be like Christ in all they do.
These are the folks who influence other people’s lives simply by the way they live. You can see the priority of Christ in their actions.
I love the Liberty Mutual commercials that have been playing this year, because they get this message. They get the idea that we influence one another through our actions. They get what WALKING FIRST CLASS is all about. They get what we sometimes forget. Watch.
Liberty Mutual Commercial
B. WALKERS are those folks whose lives emanate from their faith. Their faith has moved from their head to their hearts and from their hearts to their very soul. It defines who they are. And because of their lives, because of they way they live their faith, people attempt to live like them.
My first and only pastor was one of those people for me. My wife’s grandfather was one of those people as well. They both played a profound part in my faith walk. But to be honest, my wife, Mary, may have had the most influence on me of all. You see, I didn’t grow up in the church. I just happened to fall in love with a girl who was a Christian, who lived out her faith in everything she did. I found myself realizing she possessed a quality I didn’t have. It turned out to be something I desperately needed. All because of the way she WALKED her life of faith.
You and I are called to be WALKERS. We’re called to WALK FIRST CLASS, not for ourselves but because our destination is to become like Christ. Our purpose is not only to become disciples but in the process to “Make disciples.”
Who is looking up to you? Whose life are you influencing?
Dr. Fred Craddock tells the story of when he was invited to lead a lecture series in Winnipeg, Ontario. He arrived on Saturday night, and a snow storm blanketed the area. On Sunday morning his host called and said, "This is a surprise to everyone. We can't even get to the motel to help you. In fact, we had to cancel the lectures." Craddock said, "Well, what am I to do?" His host said, "Well, about a block and a half to the right is the bus depot. In that bus depot is a little coffee shop. Perhaps you can go there and find breakfast."
The place was packed. Everyone was trying to find a place to stay warm. As he entered, there were a few that scooted over, and he was allowed to sit down.
A moment later, the door opened again. "Shut that door! You're letting out all the heat." A lady came in. They scooted down a little more and she found a seat.
A large man with a greasy apron came over, "What do you want?"
The lady said, "May I have some water, please?"
He brought her the water. "Now, what do you want?"
"Water is fine."
"No, I mean what do you want?"
"The water will be okay," she said.
"I mean, what do you want to order, Lady? We've got paying customers here. What do you want to order?"
"Listen, Lady, if you don't order, you can't stay."
"Can't I just stay long enough to get warm?"
And then real loud he growled, "Listen, Lady, order something or leave."
With that the woman got up to leave, but as she got up, the people on each side of her got up. Then the people on each side of them got up and then the whole table. As she started to leave, the entire restaurant got up to leave. Then the large man with the greasy apron said, "Oh, now wait a minute. Everybody sit back down, she can stay." He even brought her a bowl of soup. Craddock asked the man next to him, "Who is she?"
He said, "I never saw her before in my life. But if she ain't welcome, ain't nobody welcome."
Craddock said in that new atmosphere he began to eat his soup and found to his surprise, it wasn't too bad. In fact, it was almost good. As he finished the soup, he had the feeling that somehow he had tasted it before. Something in the soup reminded him of something. As he walked out the door and looked back upon that group of people, and saw that woman sitting there, he remembered. It reminded him of bread and wine. (3)
You see, when you encounter people WALKING FIRST CLASS it has a profound influence on you. It is transformative in nature. The presence of Christ is felt and God’s Kingdom breaks in upon the world. When that happens it truly is First Class.
There are enough WEEDERS and WADERS in the world today. They’ve had enough time to influence the world. What God wants, what the church needs, what the world needs to see are WALKERS. Children of God who have experience First Class Freedom in Christ and have been Upgraded through the Grace of Christ to Walk First Class lives. The challenge is to put our Walking Shoes on and let the Holy Spirit begin transforming us “into the same image [of Christ] from one degree of glory to another.” Are you up for the Challenge? Then let’s start Walking.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, February 1986
2. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, June 1992
3. This story was told by Dr. Fred B. Craddock at the gathering of The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church held at Albright College from June 7 - 9, 1991
Other References Consulted